JESSICA SMITH: 'How will I fold a pram?'

15th August 2017 5:00 AM
UPDATED 5:47 AM
IN THE MOMENT: Jessica Smith with daughter Ayla, 2. Jessica, who was born with only one arm, is pregnant with her second child and says motherhood has been her greatest challenge. IN THE MOMENT: Jessica Smith with daughter Ayla, 2. Jessica, who was born with only one arm, is pregnant with her second child and says motherhood has been her greatest challenge. Tony Gough

FOR former Grafton paralympic swimmer Jessica Smith, how to fold a pram was only one of a million questions rushing through her mind when she learnt she was pregnant with her first baby, Ayla.

Ms Smith was born with only one arm, and has spent her life dealing with challenges from serious burns in childhood to depression and anorexia in her teens. Ayla is now two, and Ms Smith, who is now a body image activist and motivational speaker, has a second baby due in November - and she's nailed the pram-fold.

"Throughout my life my disability has never really been an 'obstacle' and I've always been able to find my own way of doing things, like tying my shoelaces, doing my hair, painting my nails and driving a car," she said.

"But when I fell pregnant, I suddenly started to doubt myself ... I wondered how I would physically do things that I believed would essentially require two hands - how would I put together a pram, and how I would manage putting my new baby into a car seat?

"I had to find a pram that was easy for me to manage, which meant a lot of trial and error but I finally found one that was suitable, with minimal parts.

"I also chose a pram that sat quite high, in order for my left arm to be close to the handle to avoid shoulder pain by constantly being uneven.

"Even things like changing her nappy - we got to a stage where I needed to have something to distract her from rolling over, so I would often ask her to hold a toy or even the wipes so I could at least get her to lay down for the duration of the nappy change.

"It seems everything that is 'child proof' is extremely challenging if you have one hand.

"Some days trying to do up her car seat is a nightmare, because you essentially need two hands to click everything into place.

"I am able to hold things in place with my arm if she stays still - so, of course, some days it takes a long time to get somewhere," she said.

"I try really hard to let (Ayla) lead the way if we go for a walk, it's lovely to just be in the moment with her while she does what she wants to do.

"She is now 22 months old and I can positively say that together, as mother and daughter, we have found our own way of doing things - our physical ability has nothing to do with our ability to parent our children."